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Illinois Attorney General
Kwame Raoul

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February 15, 2024

Chicago – Attorney General Kwame Raoul today joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take urgent action to protect babies and young children nationwide from lead and other toxic metals in baby food.

In a letter sent today to the FDA, Raoul and the coalition urge the FDA to issue specific guidance to the baby food industry to require testing of all finished food products for lead and other toxic metals. The attorneys general emphasize the critical need for action and cite recent findings of hundreds of childhood lead poisoning incidents linked to recalled cinnamon applesauce pouches that were sold in stores throughout the country, including in Illinois, without first being tested for toxic metals.

“Recent recalls of popular baby foods highlight the urgent need for the FDA to implement safety measures to protect babies and young children,” Raoul said. “The developmental and other negative health effects from exposure to toxic metals are real and long-lasting. I once again urge the FDA to hold baby food manufacturers to a higher standard and protect the health and well-being of children.”

Raoul and the coalition highlight recent widespread childhood lead poisonings related to high levels of lead detected in WanaBana, Schnucks and Weis brand cinnamon applesauce pouches that were not tested for toxic metals and have since been recalled. The now-recalled WanaBana pouches were sold in Dollar Tree stores throughout the country. The Centers for Disease Control has identified nearly 400 confirmed or probable childhood lead poisoning cases in connection to consumption of these cinnamon applesauce pouches, including at least sixteen cases in Illinois.

Consumers who have purchased these recalled products and may still have them in their homes should not feed them to children or anyone else. Instead, these products should be safely discarded by carefully opening each pouch and emptying the contents into the garbage to prevent others from possibly salvaging and consuming the recalled products. For more information on these recalled products, consult the FDA.

Despite the FDA concluding years ago that babies’ and young children’s smaller bodies and metabolisms make them more vulnerable to the harmful effects of toxic metals, the FDA has established only one action level for one type of toxic metal in one type of baby food product to date. Under current FDA policy, baby food manufacturers are left to decide whether or not to even test their products for toxic metals and other contaminants.

The delay in FDA action is both a public health concern and a matter of environmental justice, Raoul and the coalition argue, as children from low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by lead through exposure to lead-based paint, lead in drinking water pipes and other sources. Lead in their food only exacerbates the existing inordinate and inequitable hazards these children face.

In April 2021, the FDA announced the “Closer to Zero” plan, under which the agency committed to proposing action levels for lead in various baby foods by April of 2022, inorganic arsenic in various baby foods by April of 2024, and cadmium and mercury after April 2024. The FDA has since removed those deadlines from its Closer to Zero website.

In October of 2021, Raoul petitioned the FDA to issue clear industry guidance on testing for lead and other toxic metals in finished baby and toddler food products. After the FDA denied the 2021 petition, Raoul sought reconsideration of the decision in June 2022. The letter sent today renews the call for FDA to take urgent action to protect families from lead and other toxic metals in baby food products.

Joining Raoul in sending the letter are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.